September 17, 2013 10:54:46 PM
At the official one-third mark of the Mississippi High School Activities Association prep football regular season, some observations can be made.
Granted only schools in Class 1A have begun region play. Classes 5A and 6A will begin region play next week. Classes 2A, 3A and 4A will not start until October.
Still, most schools have played either three or four games, so a body of work assessment can be made. Let's look ahead and see how the playoff races appear to be shaking out.
THE BIG BOYS
As expected, the move to Region 2-6A should prove very good news for both Columbus and Starkville. In this region, Columbus is the only team above .500. The eight region teams are a combined 13-18.
If you look at Columbus' former home -- Region 1-6A -- four teams are undefeated. Only one team is below .500. These eight teams are a combined 23-6. Columbus coach Tony Stanford will be sending one of those fancy four dollar Christmas cards to the MHSAA office.
Madison Central began as the prohibitive favorite in the Region 2-6A race. However, the Jaguars have looked vulnerable in losses to Brandon and Petal.
Columbus has had to fight hard to finish fourth in Region 1-6A of late. This season, Columbus and Starkville meet Sept. 27 with the winner most likely to finish no worse than second in the region race. Both teams should safely make the playoffs.
In Region 1-5A, West Point will have its work cut out to win a region championship. However, the Green Wave should safely glide into the playoffs. The same thing for New Hope. The Trojans have the offensive firepower to finish in the upper half of this league. This region has five teams -- including West Point and New Hope -- at 1-2 or worse. Oxford is off to a 4-0 start, with excellent wins over Jackson Prep, Starkville and Lafayette County. West Point will have to fix its defensive issues fast since those two meet Sept. 27 in the region opener at Oxford.
In Region 4-4A, Noxubee County has totally dominated the competition of late. However, the Tigers will have some stiff tasks on the way to a repeat region championship.
Leake Central is off to a 4-0 start and gets the Noxubee County matchup at home. The Gators are allowing 10 points per game. Overall five of the six teams in the region are at .500 or better. Noxubee County has a high enough talent level to snag one of the top two spots in the region. Caledonia will be in a dog fight for one of the four playoff spots from this region. After winning 11 games last season, Houston is winless through four games. The Hilltoppers must turn things around fast to be in the discussion.
In Region 4-3A, Louisville essentially established itself as the pick. However, the region should have several good games. Louisville and Kemper County are both 4-0. They meet Oct. 25 in DeKalb. Two weeks prior, Louisville will go to 3-1 South Pontotoc. Aberdeen is 2-2 but most likely will factor into the race as well. The Bulldogs hosts Kemper County and South Pontotoc, while traveling to Louisville. Winning one in that set of three games should allow the Bulldogs to ease into the playoffs. Winning two puts them in the home-field discussion.
In Region 4-2A, four of five teams will make the playoffs. As it stands now, everybody has a chance. All five teams in the region are above .500. The combined record for this group is 16-3. East Webster and Eupora are both 4-0. They meet one another Nov. 1 at East Webster.
Region play enters its second week in Class 1A this weekend.
In Region 1-1A, Hamilton appears ready to make the most of moving down in classification this season. Playing a rare Thursday night, the Lions travel to Falkner for their second region contest. Hamilton is 3-1 overall and 1-0 in region play, after last week's 31-7 win over Vardaman.
In Class 1A, records are sometimes mis-leading since a lot of non-region games are against higher classifications. However, as it stands now, three of the region's nine teams are above .500. Smithville is also 3-1 and 1-0, along with Hamilton. For the record, Smithville and Hamilton meet Nov. 1 in Hamilton.
In Region 3-1A, seven of the nine teams are eligible for the postseason, since East Oktibbeha and West Oktibbeha remain on probation for substandard academic progress. A year ago, West Lowndes benefited from this postseason ban by placing fifth but advancing to the playoffs.
This season, Pelahatchie is the only team above .500 -- at 2-1 overall. Typically, Noxapater and Nanih Waiya are the class of this region. Each of those have struggled during the early stages of the season. West Lowndes lost its region opener against Pelahatchie and needs the bounce-back win badly Friday night at winless French Camp Academy.
Scott Walters is a reporter for the Dispatch. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @dispatchscott.
Scott was sports editor for The Dispatch.